Friday, April 25, 2014

Robotics Update: End of Session 2, Looking Forward

LEGO Robotic Ferris Wheel

After a couple of special Saturday sessions (to make up for the HORRIBLE March weather!), we've concluded the second session of LEGO Robotics at Searsport Elementary School!  I'm happy to say that we were able to construct a couple of successful amusement park rides!  It wasn't easy though.  For starters, the students had to know what the rides were, and then figure out how to make one out of LEGOs.  Then, I told students that I was acting as the "safety inspector."  If a ride was not safe (i.e. it went too fast, was flimsy, or in one case had no bottom to it), I told students that they would have to make changes to their ride until it was safe.  We also talked more about the engineering process and how they could relate to every step of the process.  A couple of weeks ago, we even brought a couple of rides with us so we could talk about our program at the school board meeting.  Which brings me to my next point...
Students working on their amusement park for a special
Saturday session of LEGO robotics.

We talked about LEGO Robotics at the last school board meeting!!

At the request of our school superintendent, I made a presentation to the school board about LEGO Robotics on April 8th.  Of course, the most important part of LEGO Robotics is what the students are able to build and program with them, so I was happy to be joined that evening by a handful of students from grades three through five.  It takes a lot of courage to get up and speak in front of any group; this is something most adults have a hard time doing.  Just imagine being 9 years old and speaking in front of a room full of adults that includes the entire school board, the superintendent, assistant superintendent, etc.  But, they NAILED IT!  They did a wonderful job explaining how their amusement park rides worked, some of the challenges and design flaws they overcame, what they learned through their experiences, and what their experiences were like overall.  I left that meeting feeling so proud of my students for confronting yet another challenge that I put out there for them, remaining calm, and succeeding with flying colors!  I just wish I had taken some video (the Republican Journal, though, got the story)!

First LEGO League

One of the goals that I have had for awhile relating to our LEGO Robotics program at Searsport Elementary was the eventual establishment of a FIRST LEGO League team in the area.  FLL is a competitive league where teams have nine weeks to build a robot that will complete as many in a series of challenges on a challenge table as possible in two-and-a-half minutes.  However, robotics is just one part of the whole FLL challenge.  There's also a research project that takes place around the challenge's theme; next year's theme is "First Class," and centers around education, so I am excited about the potential to organize a team for FLL. The Thursday before vacation, I held an informational meeting at the school cafeteria to see how many students might be interested.  We were also joined by videoconference by some very special guests.  The Spruce Mountain Area Robotics Team (SMART) out of the Jay/Livermore/Livermore Falls area supports a number of teams competing in FIRST LEGO League, and one of the teams was nice enough to join us on a Thursday evening to show us what it takes to field a team in FLL.  We've got a lot of work ahead, but a great group of kids that I know will do an awesome job!

A nice group of kids (and parents) ready to tackle FLL.
Connecting with S.M.A.R.T. via a Google+ Hangout.

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